Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Working Vintage Real Host Gas Stove

Buying your first house is exciting. And when it has everything on your wish list, it’s like striking gold. That’s exactly how I felt when I purchased my home a few months ago. It is a 1945 craftsman, complete with high ceilings and hardwood floors. It also came with kitchen appliances. Old appliances. And it wasn’t long until I realized that the days of calling a landlord for repairs are over.

A few days after moving in, we noticed that the refrigerator only got cold in the freezer. At first, I panicked and thought I'd start my new home adventure needing to purchase a new fridge. After a bit of research, we learned it only needed a $40 part. With a simple click on Amazon and a quick 15 minutes to replace the part, the fridge works beautifully.

The stove, however, is another story. It’s a Real Host antique gas stove, and when I first saw it, I was nearly giddy with excitement. But would it work? More importantly, was it safe? We figured the gas man would have knowledge about the stove, but he was young and needed to call in his supervisor to help. They mentioned that there were only two other people in town that had antique stoves, but they were able to get it working.

The kitchen is small. Really small. It’s just a simple walk through galley kitchen and the stove takes up most of it. There are few cupboards and not much space for storage. My boyfriend wants to do a full remodel but I want to stay true to the house’s originality. This kitchen has character. At first, we had trouble understanding why there was so little storage space. There was virtually no place for storing pots and pans without sacrificing space for food storage. I didn’t want to have to store them inside the oven and then remove them every time I used the oven. Also, because of the size of the kitchen, I really did not want to install a hanging pot rack. After a call to an antique stove restoration guy in California, he told me that the compartments to the left of the oven and broiler are for storing pots and pans. Well, that explained the storage issue. Storage problem solved!

The burners are also quirky. Even though the pilot lights work perfectly, the burners need to be manually lit. We keep a long barbecue lighter handy and simply light each burner as needed. I did that as a kid on the O’Keefe and Merrit so it really wasn't an issue. The oven, on the other hand, is a bit of a ritual. This model of stove completely shuts off the gas to the oven so there isn’t a pilot light. I suppose it is a safety feature and I'm really thankful for it. There is a small hole near the front of the inside of the oven. When the oven knob is turned to the “gas on” position, a match is supposed to be dropped or held close to that hole (we haven’t figured that part out yet) and that is what turns on the oven. But after numerous attempts at doing that, we’ve come to the realization that the oven also must be lit manually. This is done by removing the racks followed by the bottom panel that reveals the burner. The long lighter must be swept completely around each hole. Altogether, this entire process takes less than a minute and the oven works just fine. However, tonight something new happened. As I went to light the burner for the oven, the lighter was barely in front of the first flame hole and the entire burner lit beautifully! Maybe because the stove had been unused for about a year, gunk or other debris had accumulated. It was a pleasant surprise and who knows? Maybe tomorrow I’ll try to light it through the hole.

This wonderfully quirky stove also has a loose oven door. The spring on the hinge is loose. It isn't really surprising considering the age of the stove. Because of this, it’s using more gas to maintain the temperature, but so far, everything heats just fine.

Another quirk this stove has is that it emits heat. A lot of it. And we’ve had to move the refrigerator away from it, leaving a five-inch clearance to allow plenty of ventilation. The front also gets very hot as do the handles. So once the oven is on, pot holders must be used to retrieve pots and pans and also when opening the oven or compartment doors. All it takes in forgetting once and there will be no more forgetting.

Yet with all the quirks this Real Host stove has, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Just knowing it’s original to the house makes me feel nostalgic and I wonder how many thousands of meals have been made over the last 71 years. How many memories have been made with the food that was prepared in the stove that now prepares our food? For someone else, it may be just an old and quirky stove but for me, it’s a huge part of what makes my house a home. - Angelica Mordant

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